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This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

New Unity Movement (NUM)

The New Unity Movement is a revival of the Unity Movement of South Africa (previously the Non-European Unity Movement formed in 1943), and was officially launched by Richard Dudley in April 1985. Two federations of civic organisations, the Federation of Cape Civic Associations and the African People's Democratic Union of South Africa in Natal, were the most important affiliated members of the NUM.

The New Unity Movement was formed by many elements dissatisfied with weaknesses in the ANC. Their aim was a broader alliance of all the oppressed groups in the hope of establishing an alternative mass organisation separate from those influenced by the SACP. The anti-SACP stance was probably a reflection of Trotskyist trends in the group. At present the NUM is a black consciousness-orientated movement with strong Trotskyist beliefs; as such it is to the left of the SACP on the ideological spectrum. (Trotskyism is based on the principle of international social-ism through a world revolution. It therefore opposes the notion of "socialism in one state". In line with Marxist thought, Trotskyism emphasizes the role of politics in social change and argues that a revolution leads to a transformation of all institutions; it is also opposed to centralization and bureaucracy.)

According to the New Unity Movement the solution to South Africa's problems would involve:

Full and equal citizenship for all South Africans in an undivided country.

The eradication of exploitation, poverty, unemployment and all forms of discrimination.

Freedom of the masses from national oppression, and the liberation of South Africa from foreign domination and exploitation.

The NUM strongly opposes the activities of Charterist organisations. Thus, for example, it rejected the school boycott strategy of the UDF, holding that the incorrect implementation of the "boycott weapon" could lead to a split, demoralization and "the collapse in the war of the will of the oppressed". The organisation also warned against the increasing influence of "liberal and imperialist agents". In this context, it referred to Idasa, the National Democratic Movement (the political party formed by Wynand Malan which was absorbed into the DP), and the Five Freedoms Forum. According to the NUM, negotiations with the "ruling class" will never lead to liberation. Reacting to this, the UDF in the Western Cape issued a statement re-questing its supporters to ignore the NUM.

The NUM attempted to build ties with trade unions, but failed to gain the support of large groups of workers. It is primarily active in the Western Cape, and is supported by black teachers. Because of its policies and the nature of the revolution it advocates, the NUM has been unable to build a large support base. In fact, it is only supported by a small group of intellectuals in the Cape.

At its conference in January 1991 the NUM once again spoke out strongly against the negotiation process in South Africa. The organisation also rejects all calls for a constituent assembly as the initiative would, at this stage, be placed in the hands of the ruling group.

Another organisation which has aligned itself with the NUM is the Workers' Organisation for Socialist Action (Wosa), formed under the leadership of Dr Neville Alexander, former leader of the Cape Action League, in April 1990. The basic principles of the organisation are similar to those in the Manifesto of the Azanian People, adopted by the National Forum in 1983. At its first national conference in June 1991 Wosa has called for a patriotic front of all political organisations of the "oppressed and exploited group" to formulate a strategy for the composition of a constituent assembly based on "one man, one vote" and proportional representation. At this conference a group of dissatisfied founder members of Wosa formed a new organisation, the International Socialists of South Africa (Issa).

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. Return to the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory site.